For educators, change is constant. Whether it’s adapting a lesson to suit different learners, updating a unit or two year by year, or changing courses or grade levels of instruction, this profession is built on the expectation that nothing is static and that educational success is dependent on a huge number of variables. Add to this a recent curriculum overhaul in British Columbia, and you have the perfect storm of change and uncertainty.
Distributed Learning (DL) teachers and students alike will tell you that working asynchronously online is not always the most engaging learning environment. For students to be successful, they need to have either a high degree of self-motivation or parents who are able to support their progress. Students often have feelings of isolation, perceived distance from their teachers, and suffer from fewer opportunities for collaborative learning (Bates, 2015).
Although there are a number of design innovations that teachers can use to reduce transactional distance, increase feelings of connectedness, and build opportunities for collaboration, one of the most compelling problems that needs solving, both in the DL and bricks-and-mortar classroom, is diminishing student engagement. A brief review of the literature around student engagement illustrates that much of the problem hinges on outdated notions about what schools should look like (traditional paradigm) and that educators and students need to rethink the purpose and structure of education in order to meet the changing demands of the 21st century.